New donation-based online workshops for actors in hard times
2020 has been hard on all of us; some of us have lost jobs or in some cases, entire industries. Not a day goes by when I don’t realize how lucky I’ve been to have a new career take off for me in 2020.
For better or worse, this is a time to reinvent ourselves and voiceover has proven to be the perfect career to have at home. This is my way to of helping you develop a new way to support yourself and maybe discover a new passion!
Who am I?
I’m just a weird little dude with twenty+ years experience as a classically trained actor who really paid attention in class and has a colorful background as a talented teacher (I love to teach!) In the first few months alone, I secured a few thousand voicing commercials, audiobooks, animations and video games so I must be doing something right! In fact, my success is what led to someone every week approaching me and asking how they could do it too.
My whole career, I’ve also been an activist continually upset by how white my industry is (voiceover is worse) and how access to training and resources is why talent from poor/communities of color rarely have the chance to compete in it. So eventually, I decided this could not only be a great service to my fellow struggling gig workers, but could also serve my mission and maybe support me in return, allowing me to continue my workshops on a weekly basis.
what to expect in MY WORKSHOP?
A WORD ABOUT ME FIRST…
Right at the start, I would like to make an important disclaimer: I’m no expert nor will I claim to have all the professional knowledge and experience you may be seeking. The approach I use in these workshops is a humbling one: I’m just someone who loves absorbing lots of knowledge, has a talent for sharing it and in the end, I’m just a super passionate voiceover artist figuring it all out just like you. Some of you may even be more successful or knowledgable than me.
I will always make it very clear when I’m not 100% sure of the answer and at times, I will be wrong or share something you may not agree with. That’s part of the process. The best teachers are the ones that remind you that all of us in the industry found success in different ways, come from different times and are more useful to you when we’re taken as parts of a greater whole. The industry comes with a lot of preachy “that’s right/that’s wrong” attitudes from people claiming to be “more correct” in their professional decisions than others; but in my experience, I’ve noticed that no two people ever arrive at success or “correctness” in the same way. Use me as one of many guiding posts, not your guide.
I often tell new voice actors that the success you will find initially when starting out will depend largely on one thing: how good of an actor are you right now? This medium is not about impressions, it’s not about changing your voice, it’s about acting. Can you cohabitate another character’s inner life and have everything that’ll come out of you be truthful? Can you channel all of that skill so that every intention, conflict and emotion comes through clear in just your voice? Can you embody just enough confidence to represent the attitude, personality and appeal of a brand or product?
I spent over five years the Michelle Danner Acting Studio (Santa Monica) dabbling in the many complimentary (and conflicting) techniques of acting masters like Meisner, Stanislavski, Adler and others. I even wrote a mini-text book breaking down the aspects of acting from an intellectual perspective: What are “opposites” or the “emotional before?” What does it mean to be asked “what are you fighting for?” How important is it to listen to your partner or take “direction?” I also have a few years of experience training in Improv which I’ve realized is hugely influential in how successful you will be in this work. Acting is not about producing an intended product as written on paper, it’s about using your instincts to produce raw spontaneity that will surprise you and pull out of you something that so uniquely you, no one else could perfectly emulate it.
STARTING YOUR BUSINESS
Many actors are surprised to find out that voiceover is much more entrepreneurial than acting. You’re not so much an actor to be cast as you are a contractor offering services. And most work will be found doing commercials and promotional work in the beginning. In fact, looking at the larger picture, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve met a brilliant, super talented artist who will probably never had their work seen because they refuse to treat their career as a business first and a craft second. Acting is part craft and all marketing these days. Standing out, being organized, knowing your brand, your rates and your genre as well as your “type” is key. (Thank goodness for my background in marketing!) Voiceover artists find this out very early on. I will be talking a lot about what worked for me (and others) at first but also what is expected professionally in regards to your equipment, studio, voiceover demos, etc.
KNOWING THE INDUSTRY (and yourself)
The industry is an untamed beast. (Actors, you know this.) It’s constant rejection, with unpredictability on every “professional” level, darker and/or immature sides in the community that’d surprise you and the usual exhausting grind. Some call it getting through the 99 “no”s to get that one “yes.” It’s a numbers game but that’s what you have to keep in mind about this industry: it’s a game. As a whole, the industry is made up of a bunch of nerds with toys, geeks and egos who never grew up (raises hand) and kidults who are making cool stuff and just trying to make it look as much like a “business” as possible.
In the end, it’s about relationships, networking, knowing the lay of the land and how much you trust yourself, can use yourself and ride on pure faith in yourself 98% of the time. I will share as much as I know and have experienced in regards to every institution, industry personality and situation but also help you understand that this industry is just nuts. Things often don’t go by the book, rules are constantly broken, impossible stories happen all the time and it’s all about how well you trust in your personal arsenal of talents and how you properly represent what you can do and present what you have to show. It’s all you really can do in the end. Be talented, be smart, be resilient.
MIC TRICKS & TECHNIQUE (+ software)
“I yell into a big stick and hope people don’t recognize me.”
That’s how I describe my job sometimes! But really, that mic is a “magic stick.” The amount of funny (or even embarrassing!) things you can do that can make your voice sound so cool or convincing on the other side will surprise you! Monster growls and roars, contorting your face or moving your body to produce a vocal effect, making yourself sound old and withered or deep-voiced and seasoned; learning how to breath naturally or with intention to not distract from your dialogue, etc. It’s an endless bag of dicks.. I mean TRICKS that I’m still exploring.
Also, since I feel it’s so important to aspiring voiceover artists starting out: I may even offer tips on how to get started and master all the basics in editing audio to create your tracks using some sound-editing software. (I haven’t used everything, give me a break…) For the last few years, I’ve been using Garageband but I’m hoping my knowledge of other programs will grow so I can help you produce your own auditions, products and work! (So essential!) I’ll try and answer what ever questions you have in regards to things like noise floor (or eliminating background noise), db levels (or loudness), editing tracks to remove breaths or merge sentences, adding sound effects and music, etc. It’s a huge learning curve in itself!
CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT, Copy & auditions
Often times, this art form all comes down to how you are able to create a character in the very moment of your audition by using your imagination and taking all the right hints from the copy (script) to understand that “your character informs the voice, the voice does not inform your character!” Writers leave clues, directors don’t always know what they want and sometimes a project just needs an artist with a great vision (and crazy improv skills) to deliver a vibe, interpretation and personality the director didn’t even think about. (Que Spielbergs infamous “Why did I* think of that!?!” catchphrase! Whether it’s a drama, a cartoon or a commercial, all copies share common clues, writing hints, character arks and types of emphasis they want actors to pick up on. We’ll talk about cold readings, being put on the spot, taking direction from the director, unique situations and how your creativity and boldness will become the very thing that will train you to always expect the unexpected!
COMMERCIAL READS & NICHE vo GENRES
We are surrounded by voiceover work everyday whether or not we realize it. Even that voice in the elevator that says “First floor, shoes!” was some bright-eyed bushy tailed young up-and-comer who wanted to be cut a small check. People don’t realize that not only are there so many types of work in this field, you may not have discovered what your niche is yet! Some people find themselves especially good at training videos, others record voiceovers for rodeos for a living, some people are surprised that they actually have a great voice for children’s audiobooks, etc. We’ll absolutely dive into the very different world of non-character driven commercial voiceover and all the unwritten rules therein, but we’ll also explore what’s often not discussed and how any one of us may break from the pack and find out that their specialty lies in something the rest of us may never even touch. (There’s plenty of work to go around in the world of voiceover.)
WORKSHOPS ARE FREE! BUT DONATIONS APPRECIATED
While I’ve certainly found some success for myself in the form of a blooming career, donations are what allow me to keep coming back and prioritizing these classes if it means getting some mutual support during these difficult times, even if it’s $10-15, it all adds up and is very much appreciated!
You can send a payment to my PayPal, Venmo below or visit my Patreon!
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I never send promotional emails. Only emails notifying you about upcoming workshops!